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One of the scariest moments for a parent is when their kid begins to start coughing or sneezing due to an allergy. Allergies can really hurt the immune system of a child, and these issues can proceed to adulthood as well. There are many different types of allergies, so let’s delve and figure out what it entails and how you can prevent the onset of an allergy in your kid.
What are Allergies?
To put it simply, allergies are a condition where the immune system of a person’s body reacts strangely to a foreign subject or substance. Children are most prone to allergies because their immune systems are still developing, and this means that they stand a higher risk of contracting allergies.
There are many allergies that children can catch such as common cold allergies, coughing, breathing allergies, skin allergies and so on. Once you are able to identify the reason behind a particular allergy, it becomes easier to build your child’s immune system against it even though they still might find it hard to get rid of it entirely.
How do Allergies Develop or Happen?
Allergies generally develop when a child comes in contact with an allergen. These allergens can enter the body through multiple contact points such as touching, inhaling or eating. They can also be injected with stings or medicine and can be really painful for the child at such a young age.
Kids need to be looked after when they’re taken out to play or in public so that they do not come in contact with most allergens. Once their immune system is strong enough to fight these off, they can be given more freedom.
Which Children Are at the Risk of Getting Allergies?
The most common reason for kids getting allergies is due to a weak immune system, but there are children who can get allergies due to genetics. There have been cases where parents or grandparents of a child share common allergies. Also, those children who may have been born via C-section or have asthma stand a higher risk of catching another allergy.
Things that can Cause Allergies in Kids
Allergies can be caused due to various reasons and can occur through various mediums, including air, water and food.
1. Common Food Allergens
Food allergies are generally caused due to consuming or coming in contact with certain food items. There are many different food allergens and based on the dosage of consumption; their severity can increase:
- Eggs: Eggs are a common allergy that affects a lot of kids in their initial years. Parents need to be careful about what they feed their children as a lot of food items purchased off stores can contain eggs. Most kids outgrow their egg allergies as they mature.
- Cow’s Milk: A very common occurrence where people who consume milk are called “lactose intolerant.” Kids who suffer from a dairy allergy are below the age of 3, and this extends to milk-based products and formulas as well, so be careful the next time you start noticing signs in children.
- Fish and Shellfish: This is a very common allergy that a lot of children do not outgrow. Fish allergies can extend to adulthood. However, it is important to understand that shellfish and fish are from different families. If you are allergic to one, it doesn’t mean that you will be allergic to the other.
- Peanuts and Tree Nuts: Probably the most common allergen in the world, peanuts and tree nut allergens can stick around for a lifetime, and this form of allergy is on the rise worldwide.
- Soy: Most kids who are allergic to milk can be allergic to soy milk as well. However, it does not stick around for too long and fades away as kids grow older.
2. Common Airborne Allergens
Airborne allergens can be caused due to various elements in the atmosphere or environment around you. They generally result in a person sneezing, coughing or even developing asthma attacks. Severe allergies in children can also occur in some cases:
- Dust Mites – Dust mites are very tiny, microscopic insects around us and they generally feed off the dead skin cells that humans release on an everyday basis. They are commonly found in households and can be hard to get rid of.
- Pollen – Pollen is a universal allergen that generally happens on a seasonal basis. When trees, plants or leaves release these tiny particles to fertilize other plants, they tend to get caught in people’s eyes
- Moulds – Moulds are fungal outgrowths that are present mainly in moist areas. They are mainly found in areas with poor drainage or dampness. They are also seasonal, but they can also occur all-year long.
- Pet Dander – Pets tend to lick their fur and the saliva sticks on to their dander (shed fur) that gets picked up by household fabric. This, in turn, causes a heavy airborne allergy that can cause irritation in the nasal passage.
3. Other Common Allergens
There are other common allergens that can be present in the environment around us. They can also be lifetime or mitigated to an extent:
- Insect Allergies: Insect allergies can cause itchiness, swelling and redness but they generally go away after a while. However, for children with a venom allergy, it can be serious.
- Medicines: Antibiotics are a common reason for allergies in many children. They need to be prescribed by a doctor before you administer it to your child.
- Chemicals: Chemicals can also cause allergies to detergents and soaps as some people react badly to the substances present in these materials.
- Cross-Reactions –Some children can get cross-reactions to food items if they have an allergy to a related enzyme or protein. For example, a child who has an allergy to birch pollen might show signs of allergy when they consume an apple as it has the same protein.
What are the Symptoms of Allergies?
There are different types of allergies, and while some of them are common, a lot of the allergies differ from person to person. Based on the type of allergy, you can segregate the same from seasonal allergy symptoms in a child and ones that occur on a much more regular basis.
1. Airborne Allergy Signs
Allergic rhinitis is a condition that is caused due to airborne allergens. They usually develop around 10 years of age and reach their peak somewhere in the teens and early twenties. With time and age, they generally disappear. The symptoms of these include:
- Itchy throat and/or nasal passage
- Stuffy nose
- Red, itchy eyes (mainly due to pollen). This condition is also called allergic conjunctivitis, and dark circles sometimes occur, known as “shiners.”
2. Food, Medicines or Insect Allergy Signs
Food and medicines also cause a lot of allergies in general, and they too have symptoms that are visibly noticeable. The next time your child’s body acts up after eating a meal or taking a tablet, this could be some of the symptoms they display:
- Breathing trouble
- Tight throat
- Stomach ache
- Red, itchy eyes
- Hives and
- A drop in blood pressure that can cause light-headedness and even unconsciousness in extreme cases
The magnitude of allergies varies from person to person. Some people can have mild reactions like small hives on the skin but other reactions could be more serious and will need immediate medical assistance.
How are Allergies Diagnosed in a Child?
Allergies can be identified easily, but allergy testing for kids can help determine whether they have a serious reaction to certain substances or not. You can refer an allergist, and they can do skin and other tests to determine the reason. In a skin test, the allergist may:
- Drop a pure liquid form onto the skin, and then the area is touched or scratched with a pricking device
- A tiny amount of the allergen is also injected under the skin. While this test stings a bit, it is not harmful or too painful
In 15 minutes, if a lump forms, surrounded by a reddish area, then the test is positive, and medications and controlling techniques can be prescribed.
Doctors, however, will need to take blood tests for children who have skin diseases or conditions or sensitive skin. This is also done for children who otherwise might react badly to certain medicines.
How are Allergies Treated?
There are many ways in which allergies can be controlled but not treated. The easiest way to control an allergy treatment for kids is to avoid all allergens. Parents must educate their children so that they do not come in contact with these allergens. Also, it is important that you inform teachers, family members or other parents.
While it may be hard to avoid any allergens in the environment, then children allergy medication can be provided. These can include medicines, antihistamines, eye drops as well as nasal sprays. Some of the medications don’t require a prescription. Doctors can also provide allergy shots and help a child desensitize themselves against allergens such as dust, pollens, mould, stings and animals and are not administered for food allergies.
Preventive Measures for Allergies in Kids
Allergies can be treated in different ways, and allergies in young children can be avoided if parents are careful and ensure that the probability of them is occurring is eliminated to zero or near to that number.
Based on the type, you can figure out ways to avoid allergies:
1. How to Avoid Airborne Allergens?
Airborne allergens can be avoided if parents are able to keep their kids away from elements that cause these. This can be practised both at home and while travelling outside. Some of the best ways to avoid airborne allergens include:
- If family pets cause allergies, then keep them out of the child’s bedroom
- Any carpets or rugs that haven’t been cleaned in a while need to be. If needed, you can remove them as hard floors do not store dust as much as carpets do.
- Eliminate drapes that are heavy or remove items that can otherwise help dust build up.
- Clean the room every time the child is not present the room.
- Make sure that you invest in special covers that can help seal pillows or mattresses if children are allergic to dust mites.
- Children with pollen allergies should have their windows closed during the season and ensured your child takes a bath or showers so that they remain clean. Also, don’t let them mow the lawn as they have the highest risk of transferring the allergy
- Kids who are allergic to mould need to be kept away from areas that are damp, such as basements, drainages and bathrooms so that they don’t contract them.
2. How to Avoid Food Allergies?
Food allergies can be avoided as well if parents are careful with what they feed their children or keep an eye out on what they’re eating. This way, children remain safe from any of the allergies. Here are some of the ways in which they can do so:
- Read food labels carefully and see if they have the allergen that your child suffers from. If yes, try avoiding it entirely.
- Safe food items can be bought in bulk and ensure that you design a diet around these foods so that they don’t fall ill.
- Some of the eight common allergens are generally displayed on the labels of these food items. Keep an eye out for changing ingredients as some companies change their formulas at times.
- Another important aspect that parents need to be aware of is cross-contamination. Sometimes when the product goes through the line, they can come in contact with some of the allergens that can affect kids. Most companies don’t display these, but some voluntarily do. Look out for signs such as “May Contain…”, “Processed in a facility that also processes…” or “Manufactured with equipment used for…” etc.
- Ask at restaurants as well whether certain food items are cooked in common kitchens or utensils which may contain allergens.
If you’re unsure, it is always better to get in touch with the company directly and clear all doubts. It is better to prevent than leave something to chance as kids can find it hard sometimes to deal with allergies.
Allergies can be quite a painful experience for children. Make sure you’re always prepared when it comes to avoiding allergens because it is important that you understand how serious some allergies can be.
There have been cases where some children have faced near fatal situations because of a lack of awareness on the parents’ part, and this can easily be avoided with just a little reading and a visit to the doctor.
Once you identify the allergens, ensure that they do not come in contact with them and also make sure to help them develop their immune systems.